Adventures in Buckwater Draw

Adventures in Buckwater Draw

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 40.30000°N / 108.98°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jun 23, 2007
Activities Activities: Bouldering, Scrambling, Canyoneering


NarrowsThis is the top of what I call the Magic Chamber in the Main Fork of Buckwater Draw. June 23 2007.

Six of us did the Buckwater Draws on June 23 2007.

Participants and relations were as follows:

Kimberly Patterson (wife), Richard Patterson (brother), Holly Patterson (brother's wife), Russell Patterson (father), Danny Logan (cousin), and of course, me.

It was a nice trip. Our route was Plug Hat Rock, down the South Fork, over and down to the Main Fork, and out via Plug Hat. It was a HOT day with temperatures pushing close to 100F.

For more photos, see the album below:


The Plan

South Fork Buckwater DrawKim Patterson in the cool narrows of Buckwater Draw. It was very hot outside so the shaded slot sections were very pleasant. June 23 2007.

I have done the Buckwater Draws more than any other technical canyons. I have now done the Main Fork four times and the South Fork five times. Why have I chosen to do this canyons so many times? It is out of convenience since they are really the only good canyons I can do from a day trip from my house.

There are some better canyons in Dinosaur National Monument, but they can’t be done reasonable in a day from my house, and there are closer canyons to Craig, but they aren’t as interesting.

Buckwater also makes a good in between place for people from Salt Lake City and Craig. The meeting place is 85 miles from my house and just over 200 from SLC. Four of us in the group are doing Imlay on July 6-7. I have canyoneered with everyone in the group, but not at the same time and everyone knows each other, but haven’t all canyoneered with each other. It seemed like a good plan to get everyone in the Imlay Crew to all do a trip together.

So, even though I have been several times, Buckwater was chosen. It’s not a bad choice and a couple fun canyons.


After dropping off the kids at the baby sitters near our home at 6:10 am, we met the others at 7:30 sharp at the Dinosaur (just inside CO) visitor center and were shortly off to the trailhead. After enjoying the views, we hiked to and plunged into the canyon.

The Canyons

The crew having a great timeThis is one of the downclimbs in South Fork Buckwater Draw. The people are bottom to top: Russell Patterson (father), Danny Logan (cousin),Richard Patterson (brother), Holly Patterson (brother's wife).
StemmingKimberly Patterson stemming in the South Fork Buckwater Draw.

We all enjoyed the narrows sections and it was nice and cool in there. Buckwater is showing some signs of use and we found some interesting (but not dangerous) anchoring in there. The first anchor was fine and new, and we left it after some adjustment, but at one of the downclimbs we noticed a fixed line of hardware string/rope, so I cut that and packed it out since that kind of rope tends to deteriorate rather quickly. Interestingly, the last drop was still clean, so we ghosted it with a retrievable anchor system.

We then hiked up into the chamber section of the Main Fork and hung out for a snack in the cool narrows.

We hiked down from the confluence and to the deep narrows section and everyone had fun at the boulder obstacle. I don’t know if my dad liked that one much, but I think the rest of us did.

Unfortuantely we tried a few fruitless dead end shortcuts to find a shorter way out and to the north side. They all dead ended and the climbing was too dangerous, so we went back and tried the normal route. Forget about finding a shortcut.

We climbed up to the old washed out Jeep road. Unfortunately, it was HOT. Blistering HOT. At least it’s not St. George, Hanksville, or God forbid, Arizona heat, but still hot. Craig had a high of 95 (which tied for the second hottest temperature ever recorded in the month of June) on Saturday and Jensen had a high of 99.

Unfortunately we also dropped into the canyon a bit too high and had to do the tedious part. I don’t like that part, but oh well, everyone still had fun.

We finally reached the narrows and were glad to get out of the heat. The first drop is the one usually bypassed via the ledge system on the left. Unfortunately, the ledge system is covered with lots of sand now and not recommended. Danny made it fine, but Richard slipped when just checking it out and everyone was relieved he didn’t slip while farther out on the ledge.

There were two anchors here, but we cut one out. The one left is fine, but be careful if you use it since you only want to pull weight on it from below and not above which would slip it off the chockstone.

After a little fun, we reached the top of the Magic Chamber. The rappel into it is the highlight of the Main Fork. You can bypass this via a strenuous route, but it’s a lot of work and you miss out. Since he doesn’t like big raps, my dad was the only one interested in the bypass, but we talked him into going down.

We all enjoyed the rap. The rest of the trip was uneventful except for the climb out in the heat. We all brought 3 liters of water, but another liter per person would have been nice. We used every drop.


RapRussell Patterson rapping into the Magic Chamber in the Main Fork of Buckwater Draw. It was a good trip

Buckwater-Main Fork will always be special to me for the fact that after searching for a couple years it was the first real slot canyon I found in Colorado. I had found a few other short ones such as West Fork Box and Flume, but this was the first “real” one. However, the adventure has worn off a bit and we have found several canyons in the area that are a tier or two up on the quality list. Main Fork still is nice, but if time is limited, I feel that the South Fork is the better of the two canyons (Main and South). Here is the recommendation for a quicker look at the best parts of the two Buckwater Draws: Park at Plug Hat Rock. Complete the South Fork to the confluence of the Main Fork. Go up the Main Fork and see the Magic Chamber and the falls. Hike back to the confluence and go down Buckwater to the exit on the South Side. Climb out and back to Plug Hat. You will see the best sections of both canyons (both the Main and South Fork). Unfortuantely, you will also miss the really nice rappel into the Magic Chamber, which is also worth doing if you have the time.

The best sections of the canyons are as follows:

The South Fork Slot, the Magic Chamber, the deep section of the canyon after the confluence of the two forks, and the rap into the Magic Chamber.

So, the Backwaters made a great trip. It is nice because it is only 80 minutes from the house. I feel that Outlaw Arch Canyon and the Yampa Canyons farther north might be more spectacular over all, but this is still a nice little trip and very convenient, whether you live in CO or SLC.

It was a nice family outing.


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Augie Medina

Augie Medina - Jun 26, 2007 3:08 pm - Voted 10/10

Family Canyoneering

Enjoyable report, especially the aspect of sharing an outing like this with family members.

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